Spend a Couple Hours »Kick and Play

20120510-113119.jpgat The School Settlement Association

Kick and Play..

Well, Van loves the “play” element and the wide safe open space for him to run around in is worth the price of this class alone.

Kick? That he hasn’t quite gotten the concept of yet and doesn’t seem terribly interested in figuring it out.

There’s too much fun to be had running, giggling and throwing the balls. Guess he gets his athletic prowess from me.

Seriously though, once your little one is up and running, this is a great active class for them with patient teachers and even a couple singing puppets.


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Posted on May 13, 2012

Movies »The Endless Summer

directed by Bruce Brown (1966)

During this heatwave, nothing has been better to have playing in the background than the 1960’s surfer documentary, The Endless Summer.

The narration is dated and has the innocence and tone of a Disney movie, but in that way it’s quite charming.

Filmmaker Bruce Brown follows two friendly, handsome surfers, Mike Hynson and Robert August as they travel the globe in search of perfect waves. In one quite amazing scene, they teach local African villagers how to surf.

It’s goofy and far from modern, but Endless Summer does a great job of romantisicing the nomadic, amiable, and free life of a surfer.

The cinematography, of which Roger Ebert said “almost makes you wonder if Hollywood hasn’t been trying too hard” is often beautiful and it’s always a fun era to see footage of.

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Posted on July 24, 2011

Movies »Whip It

directed by Drew Barrymore (2009)

Look, there’s nothing extraordinary about the roller derby fluff that is Whip It, but it’s so endearing and uses the many sports movie cliches to its advantage that I found myself (surprisingly) completely enjoying it. After all, sometimes you just want a cliched feel-good movie that delivers exactly you what you expect. Unfortunately, most movies of this nature (think The Blind Side) are terrible and unwatchable – so I guess the fact that Whip It manages to be such a pleasant, easy movie is, in its own way, quite extraordinary.

The cast is good: you can’t go wrong with a bitchy Juliette Lewis nor a handsome Andrew Wilson, and Kristen Wiig is charming as usual. Strangely, as with any movie she’s behind, Drew Barrymore’s performance is off (though not as bad as the cellar door scene in Donnie Darko) – but she deserves credit for her easy-going direction; Marcia Gay Harden, in a role that could have been shrewish and dis-likable, is as complex as the movie can handle as a beauty-contest-loving mother.

Definitely worth a rent for those of us that enjoy a girly teen romp where the teenage girls are neither movie style skanks nor bumbling, giggly idiots; I’m bummed so few teenage girls went to the theaters to to catch this one.

Click here for the rest of Whip It

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Posted on February 28, 2010

Movies »Pumping Iron

pumping_irondirected by George Butler and Robert Fiore (1976)

It’s always been hard for me to believe that Pumping Iron is a great movie, not just as a piece of bizarro kitsch, but a respected documentary that  frequently tops reasonable peoples’ lists of their favorite films… until I watched it, of course. The film, set during and before the 1975 Mr. Olympia competition in South Africa, follows the king of the sport, Aaanold as well as his upstart competition, a then sweet and dopey kid named Lou Ferrigno, his friend and fellow champion, Franco Columbo and other lesser known men striving to achieve success in the unique world of body building.

The movie shares much with some of my favorite documentaries: the well renowned The King of Kong and the criminally forgotten Derby in that it’s an intimate portrait of a small subculture that is strange to most of us; it’s always fascinating to get into the minds of people obsessed with what they love.

It’s a well made piece of vérité that’s infinitely quotable:

“It’s like I’m cumming all the time” – Arnold

“I’m the kind of person that’s like the kind of dog that’s going to bite back” – Mike Katz

“I was always dreaming about powerful people – dictators and things like that” – Arnold

“Milk is for babies. When you grow up you drink beer” – Arnold

After years of being unavailable, the DVD can now be widely purchased, so do enjoy!

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Posted on January 10, 2010

Places to Visit »Saratoga Harness Track and Gaming (Worst Place to Visit)

Over all, I had a wonderful time in Saratoga Springs but, despite winning three dollars from the fabulous Glitter Princess slot machine, next time I'll skip out on the carpeted depression that the Harness Gaming Track wallows in. Instead I'll plan my visit around the limited dates of the far classier official racing season.

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Posted on November 9, 2009

Spend a Couple Hours »Brooklyn Bowl (Worst Way to Spend a Couple Hours)

Brooklyn BowlIt's really unlike me (and admittedly unfair) to condemn a place that I have not been to myself, but the aura surrounding Brooklyn Bowl leaves me uneasy. Actual threatening and muscle-bound door men, velvet ropes, a line of parked Escalades with yellow license plates crowding Wyeth, overpriced bowling and shoe rental and all the hype surrounding its long awaited opening deliver a singular message to us locals: this place is not for you, it's for assholes that read about it on Urban Daddy.

Even a sure to be excellent menu from the people of Blue Ribbon has yet to get me past the idea of a velvet rope… but a friend of ours did attend a recent DJ Spooky iPhone App Launch Party; let me repeat that: a DJ Spooky iPhone App Launch Party.

Some day I might bring myself to try the place out, all prejudices aside during their happy hour, and if, at that time, I find out that I'm wrong and the place is a secret shining destination of non-obnoxious good times, I promise to write a glowing review and apologize.

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Posted on November 9, 2009

Places to Visit »Saratoga Springs

Saratoga Springs has so much to offer: gambling! Spas! Bottles! We began with the gambling, made super depressing because the high class horse racing track was not yet open (we missed the very brief season opening by a week); instead we went to the carpeted harness track where aisles of either very heavy or very thin people fed slot machines. Even all the freshly-planted flowers outside couldn't improve the nicotine-stained atmosphere, but just as I was about to leave (after half heartedly losing five bucks), I saw Kitty Glitter. On her, I won eight bucks. I was up and I was out of there!

We were looking forward to some pampered relaxation in nearby Ballston Spa, where the Medberry Inn and Day Spa offers a half hour private mineral bath for two for $30. It's the best deal we found in the area and even we, who rarely truly relax, were able to totally chill out in the calm, dimly lit room with complimentary fresh fruit and cranberry juice. The staff is super nice and they even gave us a pass when we over stayed our allotted time by about fifteen minutes.

If you have some time to kill before your spa treatment, I highly recommend the National Bottle Museum just down the street. It's quaint and actually quite interesting. I posted a few favorite photos here.

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Posted on August 24, 2009

Movies »Derby

derby documentary

Why do I mention it now?

Because this hard to find gem of a movie is finally available on DVD and can be put on your netflix queue now!

Here's what I said back on

Derby, which I read about in Brix Pick The Scarecrow Movie Guide is not an easy one to find, even Photoplay (see what to do with an hour, below) didn't have it. I finally found it on Just 4 The Hell of It (who were great about quick shipping). Since it's a dub of a video, we scanned the disc quickly before watching, just to see the quality. The first scene we happened upon was of the main subject's brother looking at a Playboy as the subject's wife gets angry with him for hiding her raisins and making her take an extra trip to the grocery store just for a box of raisins, which he hid too. I knew from that small taste that it was going to be an awesome ride–and it really is.

Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of DVD transfer guys, the original sound has not been remastered and a good portion of some scenes are nearly inaudible. It can be frustrating, but with a little patience you'll see an early example of brilliant documentary film making.

The film focuses on Michael Snell, a down and out factory worker in Dayton, Ohio with two kids, a wife, a lazy but fascinating brother, and one big dream: to make it in roller derby. His story is juxtaposed with Charlie O'Connell's, an example of a life truly saved by the sport. He has fans, an adoring beautiful wife, a mansion overlooking Napa Valley, and a proud papa.

Snell's life is not as fantastic, aside for the proud papa who, like everyone else in this movie, is obsessed and fanatical about derby, making the film not only a portrait of another time (the early 1970s), but of another planet where roller derby is the biggest thing in the world. There's a lot of totally watchable derby footage, but the genius of the film is the way director Kaylor lets the story follow whatever happens.

And what happens? Well, aside from the raisins, his brother Butch talks to their friend who just got back from Vietnam about plans to avoid the draft “I'm a lover not a fighter” he says; Snell convinces his manager at the Firestone tire factory that his sunglasses are prescription and refuses to take them off in front of the cameras; a team member from a pro team talks about why he owns a gun (to keep rivals from breaking into his hotel room and attacking him); Snell's best friend, Roger, talks about why he owns a gun (sick of getting beaten up at bars); and, in an amazing scene, Snell and Rogers' wives confront Donna, a neighbor both of their husbands are sleeping with, about her affairs while wearing matching outfits.

Snell is trying to make it to a school in California so he can try out for the teams, but all the audience is sure he succeeds in doing is getting a loan from the bank to buy a motorcycle. Derby is making a small comeback with the suicide girls set, and I really hope this renewed interest might make someone, somewhere re-release this movie and clean up the audio.

Kaylor's work, which predates Errol Morris' by many years, should become a must-see for anyone with an interest in documentary film making. It's too bad there's nothing else on his resume except a couple 80s flicks: Nobody's Perfect starring Chad Lowe; and Carny with Jodie Foster, and Gary Busey (which means I'll obviously be trying to find these as well).

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Posted on June 15, 2009

Movies »Airborne

airborne movieAirborne has been a personal guilty pleasure of mine since my early college years, back when I met like-minded people who were totally uncritical of any film branded independent, who introduced me to the strange new world of Ska music, and who could recall the glories of Swan's Crossing with the same affection I did.

As a matter of fact, Shane McDermott – who played Garrett Booth, star-crossed lover of then dark haired Sarah Michelle Gellar in that oft-mentioned Brix Pick – takes the lead role of Mitchell Goosen in this movie, which is wholly acted by no one particularly good looking. Don't get me wrong, I love the kid, but I'd only cast him as a date rapist in a Lifetime movie titled something like, “If She Knew What She Wanted” (that's officially my idea now, so I don't want to see you all shopping scripts without due credit).

But don't fret if you've never seen the show, a plethora of non-Swan's Crossing talents abounds as well. Jack Black proves that he wasn't always just some cool dude that stumbled into comedic success as he hones his signature spazzing out before your very eyes and hams up lines like, “I like Nintendo and I like Nintendo” – oh, and he gets a tree in the nards. I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but my friend Brandon can be seen in the double date turned disaster scene – he's the one wearing a patchwork denim jacket and staring straight into the camera.

Stewart Copeland – yes, that Stewart Copeland – is behind the music, though I can't imagine he was 100% responsible for the B-grade Babyface-type song that includes the lyrics, “I'll pick you up in my per-son-al limonsine!” which plays during a rollerblading greenhouse scene… and I know he wasn't behind Right Said Fred's 'I'm Too Sexy' montage of Seth Green trying on various outfits for a date, looking, I'm sad to say, a lot like a ventriloquist's dummy in all of them. Yep, Seth Green is here too, sporting a haircut and circular rose-tinted glasses that make him look like a lesbian friend on Ann Magnuson's, circa 1989. As always, he's totally boss as a goof ball best buddy.

The plot's a familiar one and we've all been there: you're a Ghandi-loving California surfer who tells his rollerblades 'gracias' at the end of the day and you come home to find your parents packed off to Australia forcing you to head to freezing Cincinnati, a sad, sad place where no one understands your enlightened Zen attitude and everyone plays hockey.

Ok, so maybe it didn't happen to you – but it happened to me… vicariously. In eighth grade we got our very own Mitch Goosen when Ryan Lokken, a?blonde California surfer dude enrolled in our class and (I swear) handed out wallet-sized portraits of his surf crew to all the ladies. But, unlike the Ohian high school in Airborne, we didn't have any forty-year-old bullies out for Ryan's blood.

But if your school did have bullies, cast as forty year olds or not, you might savor the moment when Mitch tells his, “I could give two left testicles about you, your school or you hockey game!” There's also some sweet afternoon movie romance with tapered jean dream named Nikki who, while only being Sarah Powell hot (from Charles in Charge), still manages to look pretty great next to the other slags.

It's a rare and wholesome treat (and, I might add, a nice companion piece to former guilty pleasure Heavyweights), the kind of movie where the big finale takes place at dun, dun, dun… The Devil's Backbone! “Only the most dangerous hill in the whole town!”

By the way,?watch it now on Netflix on demand because the DVD, according to super irate Amazon customers, is only available in German.

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Posted on March 30, 2009